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The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England


  • Page extent: 318 pages
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  • Weight: 0.6 kg


 (ISBN-13: 9780521832069)

The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England

Cambridge University Press
9780521832069 - The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England - by Andy Wood

The 1549 Rebellions and the Making of Early Modern England

This is a major new study of the 1549 rebellions, the largest and most important risings in Tudor England. Based upon extensive new archival evidence, the book sheds fresh light on the causes, course and long-term consequences of the insurrections. Andy Wood focuses on key themes in the new social history of politics, concerning the end of medieval popular rebellion; the Reformation and popular politics; popular political language; early modern state formation; speech, silence and social relations; and social memory and the historical representation of the rebellions. He examines the long-term significance of the rebellions for the development of English society, arguing that they represent an important moment of discontinuity between the late medieval and the early modern periods. This compelling new history of Tudor politics from the bottom up will be essential reading for late medieval and early modern historians as well as early modern literary critics.

ANDY WOOD is Professor of Social History at the School of History, University of East Anglia. His first book, The Politics of Social Conflict: The Peak Country, 1520–1770 (1999), was declared Proxime Accessit in 1999 for the Royal Historical Society’s Whitfield Prize.

Cambridge Studies in Early Modern British History

Series editors

Emeritus Professor of English Social History, University of London

Fellow, Clare College, Cambridge

Professor of British and Irish History, University of Cambridge, and Fellow, Selwyn College

This is a series of monographs and studies covering many aspects of the history of the British Isles between the late fifteenth century and the early eighteenth century. It includes the work of established scholars and pioneering work by a new generation of scholars. It includes both reviews and revisions of major topics and books which open up new historical terrain or which reveal startling new perspectives on familiar subjects. All the volumes set detailed research into our broader perspectives, and the books are intended for the use of students as well as of their teachers.

For a list of titles in the series, see end of book.


University of East Anglia

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Published in the United States of America by Cambridge University Press, New York
Information on this title:

© Andy Wood 2007

This publication is in copyright. Subject to statutory exception
and to the provisions of relevant collective licensing agreements,
no reproduction of any part may take place without
the written permission of Cambridge University Press.

First published 2007

Printed in the United Kingdom at the University Press, Cambridge

A catalogue record for this publication is available from the British Library

ISBN 978-0-521-83206-9 hardback

Cambridge University Press has no responsibility for
the persistence or accuracy of URLs for external or
third-party internet websites referred to in this book,
and does not guarantee that any content on such
websites is, or will remain, accurate or appropriate.

For Max and Rosa


Acknowledgementspage viii
List of abbreviationsx
Part I     Context19
1The 1549 rebellions21
2‘Precious bloody shedding’: repression and resistance, 1549–155370
Part II     Political language89
3Speech, silence and the recovery of rebel voices91
4Rebel political language143
Part III     Consequences185
5The decline of insurrection in later sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England187
6Memory, myth and representation: the later meanings of the 1549 rebellions208


In 1938, Norwich gained a new City Hall. The entrance to the building is graced by impressive brass doors, decorated with eighteen plaques depicting the working lives of the people of the interwar city. Shoe production is represented, as is the then-new industry of aircraft manufacture; engineering is present, alongside the much older textile industry. The apparent intention was to project an image of industrial, urban modernity, suitable to an ancient city that looked to the future. Appropriately enough, Norwich’s past also featured in some of the plaques. One of these depicted a tortured image of a man, dressed in mid-sixteenth-century clothing, twisting on a noose. Meaningless to most outsiders, the image was likely to be recognisable to most local people. It alluded to the most famous event in the history of the city: Kett’s rebellion of 1549. In the course of this rising, three battles had been fought within Norwich, climaxing in a bloody encounter between the rebels and a royal army. Following his defeat, Robert Kett had been hanged in chains from the walls of Norwich Castle. It was the execution of this rebel leader that the plaque on the doors of Norwich City Hall commemorated. The image presents Kett’s rebellion as a notable event in the history of Norwich. But the 1549 insurrections have a larger significance. The risings of that year reflect important changes both in popular politics and in the fabric of society, while the rebellions also represent a key moment in English history: the end of the tradition of late medieval popular protest.

This book seeks to recapture something of the causes, course, horrors, excitements, consequences and meanings of the 1549 rebellions. In writing the book, I have incurred a great many debts. First of all, it is a particular pleasure to be able to thank all three of the original editors of the series in which this book appears – John Morrill, John Guy and Anthony Fletcher – for providing encouragement at different stages of the book’s production. I am also enormously grateful to Ethan Shagan for some characteristically perceptive and intelligent criticisms. Many other individuals have provided references, proposed lines of inquiry or suggested interpretive avenues. I would like to thank the following for suggestions, references, support and all sorts of other help: Nigel Amies, Ian Archer, John Arnold, Lloyd Bowen, Mike Braddick, Anne Carter, Matthew Champion, Lance Dawson, Dennis Glover, Paul Griffiths, Steve Hindle, Jim Holstun, Andy Hopper, Pat Hudson, Ronald Hutton, Mark Knights, Diarmaid MacCulloch, Neil MacMaster, Ellie Phillips, Jan Pitman, Carole Rawcliffe, Elizabeth and Paul Rutledge, James C. Scott, Alex Shepard, Alison Smith, John Walter, Jane Whittle, Nicola Whyte, Tom Williamson, Richard Wilson and Phil Withington. Keith Wrightson, Ethan Shagan and Dave Rollison read and commented upon the whole manuscript. The Arts and Humanities Research Council, the British Academy and the University of East Anglia all contributed vital funding. A visit to Oxburgh Hall proved especially memorable.

It seems a long time ago since I first came to Norfolk and heard the story of Robert Kett’s rising. Way back in 1986, Sarah Bracking, appalled to learn that I didn’t know the story, introduced me to the subject. I can only plead, as a Mancunian, that she hadn’t heard of Peterloo either. One of the many wonderful things about my adopted county is the long-established tradition of local history writing, from which I have learnt so much. I hope that this book repays that community with some new knowledge.

The years during which this book was written were not always the easiest. There have been times when I have leaned perhaps too heavily on friends and family. I am therefore especially grateful to my parents, Jim and Joyce Wood, and to my friends for being there for me: John Arnold, Cathie Carmichael, John Morrill, Deb Riozzie, Dave Rollison, Lucy Simpson, Garthine Walker and Keith Wrightson.

Like many historians, I spend too much time in the past. As to the present and the future, I am immensely proud to be able to dedicate this book to my children, Max and Rosa. They have enriched my life in ways that, before they came into it, I could never have imagined.


APCJ. R. Dasent et al. (eds.), Acts of the Privy Council, 1542–1631, new ser., 46 vols. (London, 1890–1964)
BLBritish Library
BlomefieldF. Blomefield, An essay towards a topographical history of the county of Norfolk (1739–75; 2nd edn, London, 1805–10, 11 vols.)
CCCCParker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
CLROCorporation of London Records Office
CPRCalendar of Patent Rolls
Crowley, Select worksJ. Meadows Cowper (ed.), The select works of Robert Crowley (Early English Text Society, extra ser., 15, London, 1872)
CSP, SpanM. A. S. Hume (ed.), Calendar of letters and state papers relating to English affairs, preserved principally in the Archives of Simancas, 4 vols. (London, 1892–9)
EROEssex Record Office
HMCHistorical Manuscripts Commission
HolinshedR. Holinshed, Chronicles of England, Scotland and Ireland, 6 vols. (1577 & 1586; new edn, London, 1808), III
HookerW. J. Harte, J. W. Schopp and H. Tapley-Soker (eds.), The description of the citie of Excester by John Vowell alias Hoker, 3 vols. (Exeter, 1919), II
L&PLetters and papers, foreign and domestic, of the reign of Henry VIII: preserved in the Public Record Office, the British Museum and elsewhere in England, 21 vols. (London, 1880–91)

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